Shimla’s main Ridge develops cracks

September 22nd, 2008 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Sep 22 (IANS) Large cracks appeared Monday on the main Shimla Ridge, the hill that has the historic mall atop it, from the Scandal Point to the Anglican church, the most famous promenade in the summer capital of British India.The cracks that have appeared after a few days of heavy rains and landslides all over Himachal Pradesh do not threaten the mall at the moment, but the market set up by Tibetan refugees behind and below the Ridge.

Two shopkeepers in the Tibetan Market died Friday night following the collapse of about 20 shops in landslides triggered by heavy rain.

“Most of the makeshift shops in the Tibetan market are leaning on one another and even a minor damage to the Ridge can trigger off a concrete avalanche with catastrophic consequences,” Subhash Gupta, a former principal scientist with the Himachal Pradesh Council for Science Technology and Environment, told IANS.

“Haphazard construction activity below the Ridge is disturbing the geological equilibrium,” he added.

The narrow lane from the Ridge to the Lakkar Bazaar bus stand where most of the shops of Tibetan market are located is too congested even for pedestrians on an average day.

“With the load of commercial activities over the Ridge increasing day by day, it might collapse any time causing large-scale damage to life and property in the Tibetan market and nearby areas. No major repair of the road has been undertaken in the past and it has developed huge craters at several places during the monsoon,” said Ram Sharan Sharma, an old-timer.

Ravinder Kumar, a former head of the department of geology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, said that “the illegal construction activities below the Ridge are weakening its foundation”.

He said though the Tibetan market is a landmark of the town for the past 40 years, it should be shifted to protect the Ridge.

“Shopkeepers are removing earth below the Ridge for expanding their shops, which is weakening its base,” Kumar said.

The Ridge has two heritage buildings, a neo-Tudor style public library that housed the health wing of the municipality and the Anglican Christ church built in a neo-Gothic style that opened in 1857.

“There is a need to protect the Ridge from certain destruction as it rests on the city’s water supply system that stores 4.6 million litres of water in a tank 45 metres in length and 32 metres wide. The tank has nine chambers and was probably built in 1883,” said a senior official of the state public works department.

Commissioner of the Shimla’s Municipal Corporation Amitabh Awasthi admitted that cracks had appeared on certain portions of the Ridge but said most of them were repaired.

“The Ridge is totally safe. There is no need to worry,” he said.

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